Marilyn, Kim Kardashian and the Curse of Fake Art

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian made a social media faux pas when she posted a fake topless photo of Marilyn on Instagram today, reports The Blast (I’ve posted the original above, taken during a 1953 photo session with Bert Reisfeld.) While it’s very annoying, I don’t blame the gullible fans who post these fakes as much as the self-proclaimed ‘artists’ who inflict these fakes on the world in the first place. This is actually one of the tamer creations – websites like Ebay are ridden with badly Photoshopped, semi-pornographic renderings of Marilyn.

“The Blast tracked down Jeffrey Yarber, the artist behind the piece, who tells us the ‘photograph’ is one of thousands of celebrity fantasy artworks he has digitally created and sold over the years. In other words, he created the photo, it isn’t an actual topless Monroe photoshoot.

Kim’s hardly the first to share the Marilyn portrait, and Kardashian is so art savvy that she probably knew it wasn’t genuine, but tons of people thought it was legit.

As for the faux photo,  Yarber says, ‘Fakes is a genre, I, and about four other fellows, originated.  My artworks are marketed around the world, and are offered in just about every medium there is.’

Yarber tells us people — including respected galleries — often mistake his prints for originals, but he doesn’t like to correct them, adamant that his pieces are ‘virtually real, depicting the actual subjects in actual settings, without flaw.'”

Fighting for the Real Marilyn

Marilyn by George Barris, 1962

Immortal Marilyn president Leslie Kasperowicz gave a powerful speech at the memorial service marking the 55th anniversary of Marilyn’s death earlier this month. You can read the full text here.

“Once upon a time, a false story about Marilyn could only be spread as fast as paper publications could disseminate; and tabloid stories were easily recognizable as fake news. Today, a fake news story about Marilyn spreads in seconds across the globe, and just as quickly becomes ‘fact’ as the tabloid source is obfuscated in the anonymity of the internet share, reblog, ReTweet. The reputation of the source hardly matters anymore. Her true story is lost in the clickbait sensationalism, and I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

When last I stood here, Photoshopped photos of Marilyn were rare and easy to spot. Today, a new fan’s first image of Marilyn is as likely to be a fake photo as a real one; the fakes so widespread that even Google images has a photoshop in the number one spot for results. Marilyn’s head is seen on the bodies of others, she is shown with people and in situations that never happened in her lifetime; she is seen brandishing guns, throwing gang signs, covered in tattoos. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Fake quotes spread around the world so fast and so thoroughly that when searched, she is the only source to be found. Inane, vague, and utterly ridiculous statements are attributed to her, she is turned into a talking head for what a new generation thinks of as inspirational words she would never, in reality, have spoken. And I do not know this Marilyn Monroe.

Our Marilyn Monroe is more than an icon, more than a brand, more than a name, more than a character. Our Marilyn Monroe wanted only to find love, to be respected for her work, to be treated with dignity, to be an honest and realized human being – to be treated as such, and to work at being an actress. She was not a joke, no matter how hard some tried to make her one. And she was worth more as a human being to those who love her than her glamorous image ever earned after her death.”

Raising the Dead: Marilyn, JFK and the Enquirer


Last week, ES Updates reported on a Daily Mail story concerning a group of candid photos taken by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, showing Marilyn during test shots for The Misfits, and the rather spurious claim by Las Vegas croupier Tony Michaels, a former acquaintance of the late Ms Hull who purchased the photos at Julien’s Auctions last November, that Marilyn was carrying Yves Montand’s child.

As I explained last week, no pregnancy at this time has ever been noted, and there are numerous similar photos of Marilyn with a slightly prominent tummy over the years. Therefore, there is no reason to believe she was pregnant. At the time, I wondered whether this would qualify as the silliest Marilyn-related story of the year – but only days later, the US-based National Enquirer went one step further, claiming John F. Kennedy was the father, and that Marilyn had an abortion (presumably at his behest.)

Many moons ago, I would buy the Enquirer for a cheap laugh, fully aware that most of their stories were probably untrue. In this age of viral news, however, the damage done by unfounded gossip cannot be so easily dismissed.

The front cover image depicting Marilyn with Kennedy appears to be a digital manipulation. There is only one verified image showing them together, after his birthday gala in May 1962. There is no evidence of the pair having met before late 1961 or early ’62, and Frieda Hull’s photos of Marilyn were taken in July 1960.

Could it be possible that the Enquirer‘s editors decided that Montand was not quite famous enough for their readership, and reverted to the more familiar rumours about Marilyn and the former president instead? Their rather crude red circling of Marilyn’s tummy shows how innocuous her alleged ‘baby bump’ really was.

Whatever the truth of Marilyn’s relationship with John F. Kennedy, this story is plainly absurd. While both ‘victims’ are long dead, their reputations are still being sullied today. What makes this all the more sad, for those who care, is the knowledge that Marilyn desperately wanted children but, after several miscarriages and failed operations to relieve her chronic endometriosis, would never have a baby of her own.

Fake News: Marilyn, Yves and a ‘Secret Pregnancy’


A series of gorgeous colour photos taken by Monroe Sixer Frieda Hull, whose incredible archive of candid snapshots were auctioned at Julien’s in November 2016, were published in yesterday’s Daily Mail. The images show Marilyn arriving for test shots for The Misfits in New York in July 1960.

Unfortunately – and all too predictably – the pictures are accompanied by a salacious and frankly unbelievable story. Marilyn’s belly is rather prominent in the photos, and Tony Michaels – a Las Vegas casino croupier who befriended the late Frieda Hull, and purchased the images at auction – claims that Marilyn was secretly pregnant at the time, by her Let’s Make Love co-star Yves Montand.

That Marilyn and Yves had an affair is not in doubt, and of course they were both married to other people. However, a pregnancy at this time has never been mentioned, and Marilyn’s daily routine is extremely well-documented. To casual observers her protruding tummy may look like a baby bump, but seasoned fans have noticed many similar images of her over the years.


Furthermore, Marilyn was a very private person and it would be out of character for her to have confided in a teenage fan. Frieda Hull never sought publicity and it seems all too convenient that such a story would emerge only after her death. It has also been debunked by Scott Fortner, who helped to catalogue the recent Julien’s sale in which these photos were featured, on his MM Collection blog; and by Immortal Marilyn.

Could this be an early frontrunner for the most ridiculous Marilyn headline of 2017? It is interesting to note that the Daily Mail was recently blacklisted by Wikipedia for ‘poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication.’

Marilyn’s Internet Quotes: ‘Consider the Source’

Photo by Ben Ross

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote has been attributed to Marilyn countless times on the internet in recent years. However, I have never been able to find the source: not in any biography, memoir or interview.

Therefore, I consider this quote to be dubious at best. However, a writer at Gender Agenda has posted a feminist critique, no less, entitled (with no apparent irony) ‘Women Who Just Don’t Get the Point.’

“If you haven’t heard this quote before then you must acquaint yourself with all the right people. The women who use and adopt this quote (it is almost invariably women), I am sure, do it in the spirit of GIRL POWER. Women do this, and like this, and act like this; and, if you can’t deal with it, then tough. Women get emotional, women can be erratic – and if you won’t handle our cons then you can’t get our pros. I think that this detrimentally misses the point of feminism, which I believe to be gender diversity, equality and acceptance.”

As I was unable to log into the site, I could not point out that this quote was probably not said by Monroe. However, I see that another reader has commented, quite eloquently, on the matter in hand.

“While I think that you fundamentally have a good point, I would disagree with you on your assessment of Monroe’s quote; I don’t believe that there is any sort of broad base for the quote, it is intended to be entirely personal. Monroe was known for having personal issues, at the same time as being the most desired woman of her era.

In the same way as I might comment on my own personal problems, we do not assume this to extend across all of male-dom. If I say I have issues with anger, or drink, or self-esteem, or the colour blue, I am not taken as the mouthpiece of all men, all Asians, all scientists, or any other demographic. This is reflected in the structure of her sentence-’I’; it appears more as an affirmation of self-worth, if you cannot cope with the negative aspects of her character, then she has no reason to let you experience the side of her that she likes and appreciates. People desired the ideal of Marilyn Monroe, but her quote indicates a refusal to grant them this ideal, if they didn’t want to/couldn’t handle having the real, 3D, human, Marilyn Monroe, née Norma Jeane Mortenson, at the same time, as irrevocably intertwined were the two.”